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Athena Pronaia Sanctuary

Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

Athena Pronaia Sanctuary

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is a group of buildings comprising of temples and treasuries as well as the famous Tholos of Delphi and the Temple of Athena Pronaia. The sanctuary of Athena Pronaia was the first sanctuary that visitors coming to Delphi on foot from the eastern road would encounter. Excavations have proved that at the sanctuary was built on an older cult site, possibly dedicated to ‘Gaia’ meaning the Earth.

Most of the Mycenaean figurines exhibited in the Delphi Archaeological Museum, including the notable seated figure on a tripod, were discovered here, and it has been suggested that they were votive offerings to the gods.

Athena Pronaia Sanctuary

Plan Delphi Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

Site plan of the archaeological area of the Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia in Delphi included the following buildings and plan:

  1. Temple of Athena Pronaia
  2. Newer temple of Athena Pronaia
  3. Tholos
  4. Treasury of Massilians and Romans
  5. Doric Treasury
  6. Temenos of Heroes
  7. Altar of Athena Pronaia
  8. Altar of Hygieia and Eileithyia
  9. Unidentified archaic altar
  10. Unidentified building for priests
  11. Statue base for the statue of Emperor Hadrian
  12. Eastern entrance
  13. Southern entrance


Delphi is renowned as the ancient sanctuary of the Oracle which was consulted about important decisions throughout the ancient classical world. The Greeks considered Delphi the navel of the world. It occupied a site on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus and had a phenomenal influence in the ancient world, as evidenced by the rich monuments built there by most of the famous ancient Greek city-states.

The Sanctuary of Athena Pronaia is not the main or largest Delphi site or the seat of Pythia, the oracle; it was a critical sanctuary just before arriving at the leading site.


In Greek mythology, Gaia is the personification of the Earth and one of the Greek primordial deities. Gaia is the ancestral mother of all life, the primal Mother Earth goddess. She was the immediate parent of the sky, from whose union she bore the Titans, themselves parents of many of the Olympian gods and the Giants, plus the sea, from whose union she bore the primordial sea gods. Her equivalent in the Roman pantheon was Terra.

Gaia is believed to be the original deity behind the Oracle at Delphi. Oaths that were sworn in the name of Gaia, in ancient Greece, were considered the most binding of all vows. In ancient times, Gaia was mainly worshipped alongside Demeter and as a part of the cult of Demeter.


  • How many thousands of ancient buildings were pillaged and recycled during a war and recovery?
  • Do the three reconstructed Doric columns of the tholos help one visualise the original building?
  • Does reconstruction have a vital role to play in such ancient archaeological sites?
  • What does the famous inscription at Delphi: KNOW THYSELF! Mean to you?


Athena Pronaia Sanctuary

  • Site:           Athena Pronaia Sanctuary
  • Date:          The earlier temples were built in the 7th century BC
  • Material:    Marble, limestone
  • Town:          Delphi
  • Greek:         Δελφοί
  • Country:     Greece

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“Love of money and nothing else will ruin Sparta.”
– Oracle of Delphi


Photo Credit: JOM; By Tomisti [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons